Antarctic fuel oil ban and North American ECA entry into force


Amendments to IMO’s MARPOL Convention for the prevention of pollution from ships enter into force on 1 August 2011, banning heavy fuel oil from the Antarctic and creating a new North American Emission Control Area (ECA).


Use or carriage of oil in Antarctic Area

A new MARPOL regulation to protect the Antarctic from pollution by heavy-grade oils is added to MARPOL Annex I (Regulations for the prevention of pollution by oil), with a new chapter 9 on Special requirements for the use or carriage of oils in the Antarctic area.

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Regulation 43 prohibits both the carriage in bulk as cargo and the carriage and use as fuel, of: crude oils having a density, at 15°C, higher than 900 kg/m3; oils, other than crude oils, having a density, at 15°C, higher than 900 kg/m3 or a kinematic viscosity, at 50°C, higher than 180 mm2/s; or bitumen, tar and their emulsions.


This means, in effect, that ships trading to the area, whether passenger or cargo ships, would need to switch to a different fuel type when transiting the Antarctic area, defined as “the sea area south of latitude 60°S”.


An exception is envisaged for vessels engaged in securing the safety of ships or in a search-and-rescue operation.




North American ECA

Amendments to MARPOL Annex VI (Prevention of air pollution from ships) will formally establish a North American Emission Control Area, in which emissions of sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter from ships will be subject to more stringent controls than the limits that apply globally. The ECA will take effect 12 months after the amendments enter into force on 1 August 2012.


The entry into force will mean there are currently three designated ECAs, the other two being sulphur oxide ECAs: the Baltic Sea area and the North Sea area.


In July 2011, IMO adopted MARPOL amendments to designate certain waters adjacent to the coasts of Puerto Rico (United States) and the Virgin Islands (United States) as another ECA (United States Caribbean Sea ECA). The MARPOL amendments adopted in July 2011 are expected to enter into force on 1 January 2013, with the new ECA taking effect 12 months later.

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